Great for low spenders: A review of the British Airways American Express Credit Card
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Editor’s note: This review has been updated with new information.
British Airways’ Executive Club is the largest and most popular airline loyalty programme in the United Kingdom.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to collect Avios, the currency of Executive Club, is with a British Airways cobranded American Express credit card.
Today, we’re taking a look at the no-annual-fee cobranded British Airways credit card — the British Airways American Express Credit Card. It could be a good choice for low-spenders and travellers who are new to the world of points and miles.
Who is this card for?
The British Airways American Express Credit Card is a base-level card designed for people who want to begin collecting Avios, the currency of the British Airways Executive Club, without paying any annual fees. This card is also for travellers who already fly British Airways or its Oneworld partners and want to boost their Avios balance through everyday spending.
There is no minimum income requirement to be approved for this card. If you already hold an American Express card in the U.K., however, be sure to note the restrictions on welcome bonuses.
Welcome bonus and annual fee
As a base-level card, the BA Amex Card has no annual fee in your first or subsequent years. But even without an annual fee, it still provides a welcome bonus of 10,000 Avios after spending £1,000 in the first three months of card membership for applicants approved by 2 November 2021. Based on TPG’s current valuation of Avios, that welcome bonus is worth around £110, which is an excellent deal for a card with no annual fee.
This credit card has a representative APR of 24.5% variable and a purchase rate of 24.5% p.a. with an assumed credit limit of £1,200.
Because this card doesn’t carry an annual fee, you may not think you can easily earn Avios for your everyday spend. However, you will receive 1 Avios per £1 spent on all purchases. Unfortunately, no bonus Avios are earned for spending directly with British Airways, as you might have hoped from a cobranded airline card.
Remember, if you meet the minimum spend of £1,000 in the first three months to earn the 10,000 Avios welcome bonus referred to above, you’ll also earn an extra 1,000 Avios, as you’ll be earning 1 Avios for every £1 spent.
Additionally, the card charges a 2.99% foreign transaction fee, which is more than the value of the Avios it would earn for these purchases. Because of the foreign transaction fee, it might be best to leave this card at home when you’re travelling internationally or making a non-Sterling purchase.
Avios are easy to redeem because there are so many options, from flights, cabin upgrades, hotel stays, gift vouchers and shopping. Read our ultimate guide to redeeming Avios here.
Those 6,000 Avios are enough for a one-way peak or off-peak flight with British Airways from London to Edinburgh (EDI), Copenhagen (CPH), Berlin (BER), Amsterdam (AMS) or Jersey (JER), plus £17.50 in fees, taxes and surcharges as part of British Airways’ great Reward Flight Saver offer.
As there’s no annual fee, you’re coming out well ahead before we even consider the Companion Voucher.
The biggest perk of this credit card — aside from the welcome bonus and lack of annual fee — is the Companion Voucher. The cmpanion voucher is one of the most valuable benefits for British Airways flyers. In short, once you’ve got one of the vouchers, you can take a companion with you on the same flight and in the same economy cabin when you redeem Avios for a BA reward flight. Taxes, fees and other carrier charges still apply to both seats.
You will earn a companion voucher after spending £12,000 on the card any card membership year. The voucher is valid for 12 months; you’ll need to both redeem the voucher and commence at least the outbound leg of your travels within 24 months.
Unfortunately, unlike the voucher earned from the British Airways Premium Plus Card, you can only redeem your voucher for economy-class travel (short-haul Euro Traveller or long-haul World Traveller).
You can commence your journey outside of the U.K. if you wish by using your companion Voucher. If, for example, you wanted to fly from Paris (CDG) to Los Angeles (LAX) via London (LHR) on British Airways, this would be allowed.
This rule is also handy if you only want to redeem your companion voucher for a one-way journey. You could start anywhere British Airways flies and redeem it for a one-way flight back to the U.K.
Open jaws are still allowed, too, though you may need to call British Airways to book this if it’s not possible to do it online.
In addition to the companion voucher, the basic British Airways Amex Credit Card also comes with several other perks.
For example, cardholders get refund protection and purchase protection. For refunds, eligible items that were purchased with the card in the U.K. are covered for 90 days. The insurance covers up to £200 to refund or replace the item, so long as the retailer won’t do the same.
For the purchase protection benefit, eligible items stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchasing with the card will be covered. The protection to repair or replace the purchase is covered to £2,500 per item.
The card’s travel accident insurance covers up to £75,000 for the accidental death or accident resulting in the complete loss or permanent loss of use of limb, sight, speech or hearing while travelling in a public vehicle. In order to be eligible, the ticket must have been purchased with the British Airways Amex Credit Card.
You can find the full terms of what’s covered with the insurances on the Amex website (PDF). Keep in mind that some of these benefits, such as the insurances, are subject to enrollment.
Finally, you can opt to have free supplementary cards for any close family and friends in order to maximise your return on the card. But remember you, as the primary cardholder, will still be responsible for paying the balance each month.
Which cards compete with this card?
The premium version of this card, the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card, does have an annual fee but comes with a much larger welcome bonus and earns more Avios per pound spent. Plus, with its preferential earning structure that card also earns bonus Avios for spending with British Airways directly, it could be a better option for frequent BA flyers.
But the most important difference is that you’ll earn the lucrative companion voucher after spending only £10,000 on the Premium Plus Card versus £12,000 on this basic card. Also remember, the Premium Plus Card:
- Gives a longer voucher validity period of 24 months, rather than 12 months with the base level card.
- Allows you to redeem the voucher for any cabin of service BA flies at all times, rather than just economy.
If you are planning to spend £10,000 on any British Airways American Express credit card in your card membership year, you may wish to consider the Premium Plus Card instead of the basic BA Amex, as it’ll trigger the companion voucher much sooner. The voucher from the Premium Plus Card is significantly more valuable as it can be used for premium cabins.
So, why do we say this is a solid card for low spenders? Because if you are spending less than £10,000 in a year (i.e. less than £830 every month) and you won’t earn a valuable companion voucher on any card, then with this card you can still earn Avios on every purchase without paying any annual fees. If you were spending £800 per month, you would still earn 9,600 Avios over the course of the year with no annual fee.
That’s enough for a return peak or off-peak flight to the likes of Amsterdam (AMS), Copenhagen (CPH) or Edinburgh (EDI) plus fixed fees and taxes – not bad for a card with no annual fees.
This card’s earning rate is simple and American Express is accepted at a large number of retailers in the U.K., making it easier to earn valuable British Airways Avios to be used on your next redemption.
If you can earn a companion voucher, it’s a good idea to look at both British Airways American Express cards side by side to decide on the easiest way to earn the voucher, as you can potentially obtain hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of value from the voucher, depending on how you use it.
Do keep in mind that the companion voucher from this card is not hugely valuable because of the high fees, taxes and surcharges levied on economy flights (especially long-haul), while the companion voucher from the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card is very valuable.
If you are a low spender but still want rewards for every purchase with no annual fees with a welcome bonus, this is a solid option.
Featured photo by John Gribben / The Points Guy.
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